How should Calvinists evangelize?

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by biblelighthouse, Jul 3, 2005.

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  1. heartoflesh

    heartoflesh Puritan Board Junior

    Is the altar call really the standard mode of modern evangelism today? I have never been to a church that had one. My church's idea of evangelism is "personal evangelism".
  2. biblelighthouse

    biblelighthouse Puritan Board Junior

    The altar call is still BIG.

    I grew up on the road with Arminian musician/evangelists for parents. We covered the 48 states, going from church to church. My dad loves the invitation and the altar call.

    Also, in several of the churches I was in as a kid (when not on the road), the invitation and altar call were considered important.

    When I was 12, I was "saved" because I responded to an altar call at a "revival" at a local baptist church.

    As a teenager, I went to a number of conferences and youth camps. The altar call was a big deal in those cases, too.

    Finally, I have two words for you: Billy Graham

    I have seen altar calls throughout my life in numerous types of churches: Baptist, Nazarene, "non-denominational", Assembly of God, etc.

    The altar call is a disease that still infects America with a vengeance.

    [Edited on 7-6-2005 by biblelighthouse]
  3. heartoflesh

    heartoflesh Puritan Board Junior

    Must be a bigger deal down south. Up here it's mostly Lutherans, not many altar calls.
  4. biblelighthouse

    biblelighthouse Puritan Board Junior

    Yeah, I have to admit I've never seen an altar call in a Lutheran or Presbyterian church! :lol:
  5. ReformedWretch

    ReformedWretch Puritan Board Doctor

    Take out "Baptist Church" and insert "Church of God" and that's my story!
  6. JeremyConrad

    JeremyConrad Puritan Board Freshman

    We're told in Acts that, after Pentecost, Peter preached to the entire crowd and they all heard in their own language. Luke then tells us that several thousand (I don't have it in front of me for the exact number) were added to their number that day.

    First of all, does that mean those several thousand were saved (regenerated)?

    Second of all, how did Luke know? What was the evidence that they'd been regenerated? If several thousand TOLD him, wouldn't that be "Confession of Faith" the same as if they'd all come forward for a Billy Graham altar call?
  7. JeremyConrad

    JeremyConrad Puritan Board Freshman

    That's the weirdest thing! Having grown up in the Nazarene church, there were altar calls nearly every week. I've visited two churches in the past couple of months, a PCA in March and an OPC in June, and they didn't even HAVE an altar. It felt strange to me because, even IF you don't go to the altar to get "saved" it is still a nice place to go and pray during a church service where others can pray with/for you.

    Joe, you and I've talked about how Christ is our altar now, and I agree. So, let's call it something else. Or, better yet, let's keep calling it the altar - since it is part of the cultural dialect - and know that it isn't meant to replace Christ as our "true" altar.
  8. biblelighthouse

    biblelighthouse Puritan Board Junior


    Those are EXCELLENT questions. But if I start to answer them, then this thread will turn into another credobaptist/paedobaptist debate.

    I'll tell you what . . . go start a new thread focusing squarely on Acts 2. That way we won't interrupt the flow of this thread. Then I will be happy to respond, and to go into some detail regarding Acts 2.

    Your covenantal Calvinistic cousin,
  9. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    The two greatest "revivals" in the history of the world were the Apostolic Era (God's people were scattered abroad by persecution, Acts 8.1, and hence "turned the world upside down," Acts 17.6, because "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church," Tertullian) and the Reformation of 1517 and beyond. Both were works of the Holy Spirit through faithful ministries of the Word as proclaimed and lived by men and women who understood the sovereignty of God and the doctrines of grace.
  10. heartoflesh

    heartoflesh Puritan Board Junior

    So, how do we put this into practice? We know what evangelism is not, i.e, an altar call, but what does it look like? How does a Calvinist evangelize? More specifically, how does a Calvinist lay-person evangelize?
  11. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    TELL what great things God has done for mankind, and for the speaker himself.

    WARN of the wrath to come.

    Don't worry about giving instructions about "how to get saved," or some formulaic path. The message is "repent and believe." Say what you know, and point them to the church. A believer has both obligation and a (new) natural compulsion to draw near to God--i.e. worship. He does that most blatantly at public worship. That is why the preaching of the Word is the most potent means of grace. Outside the church (visible) there is no ordinary means of salvation.

    Would you be able to answer a serious query, "OK! What must I do to be saved?" It's better to have more ability than to have less. It's better to be "mighty in the Scriptures" than puny. But you explain what you do know, and forget about the "results."

    "God did this for me. Hallelujah! He can save you too. Repent and believe." What does it mean to repent? You know, if you've repented. What does it mean to believe? You know, if you have believed. "Go to church. Share the fellowship. Join the feast. Listen to Jesus."

    How did Philip evangelize? He pointed the Ethiopian eunch to Christ.

    Because we don't know a man's heart, we don't know (even when we think we do) when one passes from death to life--what is the "tipping point." There are thousands who were drawn to faith, who look back and honestly say, "a year ago when I started coming here I was not (to my knowledge) a Christian. Today I believe I am by God's grace. When did my conversion take place? How can I fix the moment? I cannot. Who cares? I know I am saved because right now I am trusting wholeheartedly on Christ for salvation and no other. He is my King and Savior."

    No one should ever trust in a past "conversion experience." The only "saving experience" that has any meaning at all is the one you are experiencing RIGHT NOW.
  12. larryjf

    larryjf Puritan Board Senior

  13. just_grace

    just_grace Puritan Board Freshman

    Funny thing...

    I have no problem in telling anyone about Jesus. I am a Christian, and after I have told them that from the outset they cannot think or expect anything from me that does not proceed from my initial statement, for good or bad, hopefully for the good.

    May I never be ashamed of Christ. Hope that makes sense. I am dead to the world, why should I worry about what it thinks of me?
  14. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    I think it is important to distinguish between preaching (proclamation of the gospel, ie., evangelism) which is restricted to those who are ordained or licensed lawfully (because the proclamation of the gospel involves the authority of the church as is evident in the Great Commission) and witnessing which is the duty of all Christians in the sense of being salt and light, letting our good works glorify our Father in Heaven, and being ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us. Laymen are not called to evangelize, but woe unto those who are called to preach the gospel if they do not do so. The best thing laymen can do is witness to the faith by word and deed, and invite others to church, to whom are given the oracles of life and wherein is the respository of truth and outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. And pray, pray, pray for the blessing of God upon the proclamation of the gospel. And if you read the Directory for Family Worship prepared by the Westminster Assembly, you will note that they attribute (humanly speaking, under the power of the Holy Spirit) the key to successful national reformation to family worship.
  15. JeremyConrad

    JeremyConrad Puritan Board Freshman


    I don't mind posting another thread that focuses on paedobaptism and covenantal regeneration. But I'm not arguing the fact that families were included in this number of "thousands" added to the faith because of a believing parent, husband, etc. In fact, I'm sure there were!

    However: Let's say that if two thousand people were added to the faith, and that there WERE entire families added after Peter's sermon due to covenant promises, and, for the sake of arguement, say that there were 10 people in each family. That would mean that 200 families of 10 people were added that day. This STILL begs the question, how did Luke know that those 200 husbands, fathers, etc. were regenerate?

    Maybe Peter said, "Who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?", and 200 men raised their hands. I doubt it, but this is what I'm asking in the thread. How did Luke know that EVEN ONE person was added to the faith that day?


    PS - I'm not being argumentative, am I? :deadhorse:
  16. JeremyConrad

    JeremyConrad Puritan Board Freshman

    I know what you're saying, but doesn't this sound like you're contradicting yourself? Besides, if, in order to be saved, you simply have to "repent and believe", you're back to the Arminian synergistic position. YES, I agree that you must "repent and believe", but not so you can be regenerate. It is BECAUSE you're regenerate that you do this.

    Luke picked a fixed point in time when these thousands were added to the faith. You see, I'm not even arguing with you. I completely agree with what you're saying. I'm just trying to figure out how to bring together this dicotomy between "no one can know another's heart" and "thousands were added to the faith THAT DAY".


    [Edited on 7-6-2005 by JeremyConrad]

    [Edited on 7-6-2005 by JeremyConrad]
  17. JeremyConrad

    JeremyConrad Puritan Board Freshman


    What would you say in the case of my supervisors at work, a married couple, who have no knowledge of the Bible other than what they see in me? I've invited them to church many times, but they've never come with me. They ask me plenty of questions, though, about the Bible, about things they've seen on TV, about religion and about Christ. I do my best to answer these questions for them.

    I am NOT ordained, but I started having a Bible study with them every two weeks. They're very interested and ask a lot more questions there. Am I not evangelizing? Should I not be having this Bible study since I'm not ordained? Should I just complacently keep asking them to church and do nothing else?

  18. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    I pray God will work in the hearts of your supervisors. It may be that God will use this situation (ie., their contact with you) to open their hearts to the truth. However, I stand by my principled opposition to home Bible studies and other efforts at evangelizing or proclaiming the gospel apart from the authority of the church.

    Why not invite your pastor to teach the Bible study? By all means continue to witness to your supervisors. But God has ordained the means by which men are ordinarily saved and those means are through the church. Continue to invite them to church, if the occasion warrants, and if they are willing, there is much in the way of Biblical literature that you can provide them with. Pray with them, pray for them, and consider whether you might be called to ministry yourself. But also consider that the church is the channel through which salvation is ordinarily appointed by God.

    Ultimately, their salvation is not in your hands. It is in God's hands. God has clearly put it in your heart to be concerned for their spiritual well-being, which is a very good thing, but remember that He is sovereign, and He, only He, can open their hearts. He has appointed the church to be the means of grace by which the gospel is made known to men. Your duty, as I see it, is to work within the means that He has provided towards that end. The highest end of our duty, of course, is not necessarily the salvation of men, but rather the glory of God, who is Lord over both the elect and the reprobate. We don't know who is who, but we do know that the church is the witness to the world by which the gospel is proclaimed. So our duty is to work within the church rather than outside the church.

    From the Westminster Directory of Family Worship:

    [Edited on 7-6-2005 by VirginiaHuguenot]
  19. biblelighthouse

    biblelighthouse Puritan Board Junior

    Jeremy's pastor is an Arminian. Jeremy is far better equipped to evangelize his supervisors than his pastor is.

    When it comes to sharing the Gospel, it is impossible to do it "outside the church". When Jeremy, or I, or any other Christian shares Christ with people from the Scriptures, we act as Christ's ambassadors OF the church.

    If anyone has a clear opportunity to share the Gospel with someone, but they don't do it merely because they are not ordained, I think they are gravely sinning. What level of intelligence does it take to know the Gospel? . . . the intelligence of a child. And Jeremy FAR surpasses that.

    I'm pretty sure his supervisors are a lot more open to hearing the Gospel from him than they are to hearing it from Jeremy's Arminian pastor, whom they don't even know.

    Keep up the good work, Jeremy!
  20. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    If Jeremy is part of an Arminian church, then that's a big problem. Christians ought to seek membership in a church that preaches the gospel. However, when I say that Bible studies should be lead by pastors or other ordained men, I am assuming the church in question is a gospel-preaching church, not an Arminian church. The principle of church authority in general still stands.

    Do you know what a parachurch is? It is an organization or ministry that attempts to fulfill functions of the church, yet outside the church. Likewise, are you acquainted with the house church movement? It is most certainly possible to preach the gospel or teach the Bible outside the church, yet it is not Biblically warranted to do so.

    There is a reason why the church ordains men who are called to the ministry. They are called, qualified and set apart to a holy task. Those who are not called to the task ought not to take up those responsibilities and that authority. Thus, only ordained men can preach the gospel, only ordained men can administer the sacraments, only ordained men can exercise church discipline.

    This is a Scriptural principle and one that is well articulated by the Westminster Standards. It is encapsulated in this verse: And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God as was Aaron, Heb. 5.4. See also Rom. 10.14-15. See also George Gillespie on this subject.

    When Paul speaks of ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5.20) he is specifically referring to ministers, not to laymen. "Faithful ministers are Christ's ambassadors, sent to treat with sinners on peace and reconciliation: they come in God's name, with his entreaties, and act in Christ's stead, doing the very thing he did when he was upon this earth, and what he wills to be done now that he is in heaven." (Matthew Henry)

    As I have said, it is the duty of every Christian to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that lies within us (1 Pet. 3.15). And it is our duty to support the work of the ministry by every lawful means according to our place and calling. But that is not preaching the gospel, that is witnessing. By words and by deeds we are all called to live the gospel, but not everyone is called to preach the gospel. The calling to preach the gospel is a function of the ministry of the church, outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. Can we engage in functions of the church apart from the church? Yes. Can God providentially bring about good through such efforts? Yes. Should we then take upon ourselves the tasks assigned to the church? No.

    Westminster Larger Catechism:

    [Edited on 7-7-2005 by VirginiaHuguenot]
  21. Jeff_Bartel

    Jeff_Bartel Puritan Board Graduate

    Our church has actually had a couple of them. I think that is a sign of the dangerous state my church is in. Although it is PCA, it leans toward a somewhat baptistic/fundamentalist mindset sometimes.

    I hope my church is not representative of all PCA churches.

  22. Robin

    Robin Puritan Board Junior

    Here's a springboard that may educate those adherents to the "altar call"...first, an altar in a true Church of Christ is an abomination. Why? Because Christ was slain on the final sacrificial "altar"...remember, the curtain was torn at that time? The idea of altar was done away...and replaced by the table of the Supper. The Supper where God's lambs receive the "sign and seal" of God's Promise to save them based on His Son's sacrifice. NOT the altar where WE offer a sacrifice or re-sacrifice Christ (as Rome insists.)

    Actually, the altar call is "Roman" by design....


  23. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    Excellent point, Robin! :up:
  24. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Jeremy, you asked a little earlier: "How does a reformed evangelist end his sermon?" I answered, "See you in church!"
    Rick's question was "What does it look like... How does a Calvinist layman evangelize?" My answer has been consistent: be a witness of the great things God has done for you (1 Pet. 3:15).

    But what if someone asks you at that moment "OK! I'm sure I need that same gift NOW?" (Maybe he's dying!) Can you tell them something? Sure, even if you don't know much, you can tell them to do what you did, "Repent and believe!" Which is nothing less than a very condensed version of John the Baptist's, Jesus', Peter's, and Paul's own message, for example Acts:2:38ff. There is nothing distinctly "Arminian" about the command--we leave the stuff we can't see (the work of the H.S.) to God.
    Hey, I'm glad we're on the same sheet of music! But this isn't a hard question. We know because the Spirit inspired Luke to inform us. He tells us in Acts 2 that He effectually called not less than thousands to saving faith from the first NT, post-ascencion sermon. I suggest that history teaches us that Pentecost was a "special occasion." And praise God there have been others. And will be again, I believe, if Christ tarries. But we won't have the same infallible guidance about the persons (and neither did Whitefield--but the proof was in the pudding, so to speak.)

    [Edited on 7-7-2005 by Contra_Mundum]
  25. JeremyConrad

    JeremyConrad Puritan Board Freshman

    You're absolutely right. But I doubt that Luke knew he was being Divinely inspired when he wrote this. Even if he DID know that, Theophilus didn't know it.

    Here's my point:

    1. One CAN know the specific time of one's own conversion or regeneration. Many of us can point to the specific time in our own life.

    2. Luke shows us that apparently one CAN know the specific time of another's conversion as well.

    3. Since there IS a specific and fixed point of conversion and since you CAN know what that point is...what is that evidence? Luke actually SAW the evidence in thousands of people at one time.


    Regarding the sinner's prayer as we discussed earlier:

    A. Does anyone think that it is WRONG to pray it?

    B. What if a person has truly been made alive in Christ and then prays the prayer?

    C. What if the prayer is prayed in RESPONSE to what God has done?

    (Lord, I know I'm a sinner. I believe that You sent Your Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins. I place my faith in You and ask that You fill my heart completely with Your Spirit. Thank You for saving me. Thank You for loving me and dying for me even while I was living in sin. Thank You for the new life You've given me through Your Son. Amen.)

    Wow! What an awesome prayer of thankfulness - NOT because you think the prayer is what saved you, but because you've BEEN saved and want to offer this sacrifice of praise to the One who saves you.
  26. biblelighthouse

    biblelighthouse Puritan Board Junior

    I do not think Luke knew whether all these people were regenerate or not. Acts 2:41 just says, "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day."

    That is no different that someone saying "3000 people just joined my church". You rightly assume regeneration, but you do not know about the regenerate status of any given individual. Any one of those 3000 may have (and probably did) prove later to be an unregenerate covenant breaking apostate. There is no reason to think that 1 John 2:19 couldn't apply to individuals within these 3000, just as much as with any other individuals who join the church.

    I disagree. (The apostle Paul may be an exception . . . but I think he is very much an exception.)

    Rather, I would argue that MOST people do NOT know the specific time of their regeneration.

    I disagree with this statement even more. Again, look at 1 John 2:19. Or look at Matthew 7:22-23. There are many who appear to be regenerate for a while, but then prove not to be.

    So, not only can we NOT know the time of another's conversion, we cannot even know for sure that another person is converted. We can have excellent reasons to believe so, but that doesn't mean we are always correct. Man can only judge outwardly. But God sees the heart directly. We cannot do that.

    The evidence he saw proved that those people became part of the visible church, but did not prove that they were all regenerate and became part of the invisible church.

    If a person happens to choose to pray that prayer of their own accord, I have no problem with it. We should constantly be thankful to God for our salvation, and should thank Him for it throughout our lifetimes . . . not merely immediately after conversion. So, in that sense, we should all pray the "sinner's prayer" every day for the rest of our lives.

    But I DO think it is WRONG to tell someone else to pray that prayer.

    First of all, we do not have Biblical precedent for it. Apparently the "sinner's prayer" was unneccessary throughout the New Testament, throughout the early church, and throughout the Reformation. We should fit our evangelism according to Biblical example. The apostles did not ask anyone to pray "the sinner's prayer".

    Second, regardless of how you intend a new Christian to pray the prayer, it dangerously lends itself to Arminian thinking, especially with a new believer. It can be very easy for a person to look back on their praying of "the sinner's prayer", and say, "That's when I became a Christian . . . and now that I'm a Christian for sure, I don't need to be concerned about a thing, because I can't lose my salvation." - - - This is "eternal security", as opposed to "perseverance of the saints", and it easily lends itself to antinomianism.

    The problem is that the person is finding assurance in the fact that they "prayed that prayer in the past", and so they now must be somehow magically protected by it.

    On the contrary, our only Biblical source of assurance is in our relationship with Christ NOW. If I am living rebelliously against Jesus TODAY, I have no right to try to glean ANY assurance from a magical "sinner's prayer" that I prayed in the past after walking down the aisle at a "revival".

    So often, people push people into praying the "sinner's prayer", and then give them false assurance afterwards by saying, "Now you are a Christian!"

    This is false, man-made assurance that is not Biblically based.

    [Edited on 7-7-2005 by biblelighthouse]
  27. JeremyConrad

    JeremyConrad Puritan Board Freshman

    To argue both sides of the issue: So, are you saying that Luke was assuming regeneration when he wrote that comment? Luke would not HAVE to assume if he was being Divinely inspired?

    Choice 1: Luke was Divinely inspired to write this comment, but had no hard evidence to make the claim to Theophilus (and ultimately to you and I). With no hard evidence, Luke still felt confident enough to write the comment because he assumed regeneration. But why would Theophilus believe him not knowing Divine inspiration was involved?

    Choice 2: Luke was Divinely inspired to write this comment, but he personally saw hard-and-fast evidence to make the claim to Theophilus and was not making an assumption. With this evidence, Luke felt confident in writing this comment to Theophilus knowing that he had personally seen the evidence.

    Just a conjecture: Maybe the fact that a doctor wrote this gave Theophilus enough trust in Luke's writing that it didn't matter whether or not Luke saw evidence. If Luke said it, he would believe it.

    Regarding the sinner's prayer, I wholeheartedly agree! I just wanted to see where people stand on this issue.
  28. biblelighthouse

    biblelighthouse Puritan Board Junior

    I think everything becomes clearer if you notice that Luke didn't say anything about their regeneration! He just said that 3000 were "added to their number" (i.e. "joined the church").

    So I think all the questions about "hard and fast evidence" are moot. Luke wasn't even talking about the objective states of the people's hearts. He certainly had definitive evidence that the 3000 people had joined the visible church. And that's what he was talking about. He did not have infallible evidence that all 3000 were definitely regenerate, and he did not claim to have such knowledge.


  29. heartoflesh

    heartoflesh Puritan Board Junior

    Just so you know, I am in agreement with pretty much everything you've written. I have one question, however: When, and under what circumstances can you tell a person "now you are a Christian"?
  30. biblelighthouse

    biblelighthouse Puritan Board Junior

    Great question. In the back of my mind I was thinking I shouldn't have worded my paragraph quite the way I did . . . and I was right.

    The word "Christian" is a multi-faceted term. It seems to be used in Scripture in reference to members of the visible church. But of course the assumption is that a member of the visible church is also a member of the invisible church . . . i.e. regenerate. (But of course this is not always the case.) But it's common today to unequivocally draw an equals sign between the word "Christian" and "regenerate". I don't have any problem with this, just as long as we're careful. Obviously, when I used the word "Christian" in my quoted statement at the very top of this post, I was equating it with the term "regenerate".

    And as long as by "Christian" we mean "certainly regenerate", then I do not think we can ever tell that to another person with absolute certainty. Rather, if a person appears to be a new believer, we can say, "You are regenerate if you believe such and such . . ."

    We cannot be 100% certain that a person is regenerate, even if they are church members in good standing for 20 years. So much less can we know it for certain the moment after a person makes his/her first profession of faith.

    Anyway, to answer your question, I am a little uncomfortable about saying "Now you are a Christian!" after a person professes faith, prays a prayer, etc. I don't want a person to think I am guaranteeing their regeneration because I saw them *do* or *say* something.

    In those circumstances, I would rather just tell them what regeneration means, what salvation is, and what you have to believe to be saved. Then leave it up to the Holy Spirit to give the person assurance.

    Later, in the context of fellow believers talking about one another in Church, I don't have a problem with saying, "We're Christians", or "Come on, you're a Christian, so . . .", or "My friend Bob is a Christian", etc. --- I don't mind talking that way because I have really good reasons to assume I'm correct, and that particular context of talking doesn't lend itself to false assurance, I think. I don't think Jack is going to go to church for months, and then hear me say, "Jack's a Christian" in a conversation, and then place his assurance of salvation upon that moment. But he very well *may* do that if I make the same statement after he prays "the sinner's prayer".

    I hope I've made the distinction clear. Maybe everything would be less confusing if we just said "regenerate" every time we meant "regenerate", and just said "visible church member" otherwise. But then again, even the Bible doesn't talk like that. Scripture is not quite the systematic theology textbook that we might like it to be. A single word can have different meanings depending on different contexts.
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